Calls have been made for the new head of Police Scotland to clarify his involvement in controversial undercover operations used by London’s Metropolitan Police Service.
It emerged that he was responsible for Special Branch units at a time when officers used false personas to trick women into relationships. Phil Gormley, who took up his post as Chief Constable of Police Scotland earlier this month, headed up a merger of Special Branch and Counter terrorism units at the Met in 2005 – while undercover police officers, including Carlo Neri and Mark Kennedy, were operating under fake names. He also worked as Commander of Specialist Operations from 2003.
It may be that he says he knew nothing about what was going on, but that in itself is worryingGraeme Pearson
The news comes as environmental campaigner Kate Wilson yesterday became the first woman duped by undercover officers to formally win her case against Scotland Yard as a result of her two-year relationship with Kennedy.
Ms Wilson’s legal team argued that Met police chiefs had been negligent in failing to stop relationships from forming. The force dropped its defence before judges.
Labour justice spokesman Graeme Pearson called on Mr Gormley to publicly make clear his involvement in the Met’s controversial Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), a unit of Special Branch.
“Certainly, it would be extremely helpful if Mr Gormley outlines his knowledge of this particular unit and any part he played in the deception of this unit back at this time,” he said. “It may be that he says he knew nothing about what was going on, but that in itself is worrying. He would do well to explore this issue in a public forum.”
The existence of another undercover officer, Carlo Neri, emerged at the weekend when reports revealed that the officer had had a two-year relationship with a woman while working to infiltrate the Socialist Party and anti-fascist groups for the SDS between 2001 and 2006.
Neri – who posed as a locksmith and told the woman, “Andrea”, whose parents lived in Scotland, that he wanted a baby with her – was actually married with children.
The story is the latest involving women who claim they were duped by undercover officers.
Andrea, who has begun legal action against the Met, has claimed that Neri’s deception amounted to “abusive, cold-hearted, psychological torture” and said the relationship ended when he called it off after suffering a suicidal breakdown, a story she now believes he fabricated.
The Met has settled seven other cases out of court but yesterday dropped its defence against Wilson, who was involved with Kennedy from 2003.
A spokesman for the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (Cops), an alliance of people who claim they were spied upon by British undercover officers, said: “Either Philip Gormley knew about this and his judgment as a police officer is way off, or he didn’t know about it – in which case he is an incompetent manager and questions should be raised as to what he is doing running Police Scotland.”
Police Scotland refused to comment on whether Mr Gormley was aware of the work carried out by Neri.
“Mr Gormley does not wish to comment,” said a spokesman.
The Met refused to confirm or deny the identities of those who may work or may have worked undercover.
It has emerged that when Neri was living with Andrea undercover in central London, from November 2002 to May 2004, he was married with a child.
“He was probably away from home for four or five nights every fortnight and that would be due to work trips and every other weekend he would go to Cornwall to see his child,” Andrea said.